MT. AIRY — Lanier exploded for 20 third-quarter points to pull away for an eventual 42-22 win over Habersham Central Friday night in both teams’ Region 8-6A openers at Raider Stadium.
The two teams played a back-and-forth first half that saw a pair of turnovers, two defensive stands by Lanier, a blocked punt, and a kickoff return for a touchdown.
The Longhorns (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-6A) never trailed as Andrew Blackford connected with Cole Thornton on a long touchdown pass and then a 2-point conversion for an 8-0 lead their second drive after the teams traded early turnovers.
Blackford tossed another long touchdown late in the first quarter for a 15-0 lead but Joshua Pickett took the ensuing kickoff 83-yards for a score to cut the lead to 15-7. The Raiders had a chance to cut into the lead or tie in the waning seconds of the first half but was stopped inside the Lanier 10 for the second time in the half.
The Longhorns wasted little time in the second half extending the lead as Tyler Washington took the opening kickoff 82-yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 22-7. The Lanier defense then forced a quick Habersham punt and Taj Barnes scored the first of three second-half touchdowns on a 22-yard romp to cap a quick three-play drive.
Habersham (3-3, 0-1) was forced to punt again and Barnes rumbled 54-yards four plays later for a 35-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
Jackson Clouatre scored on an 8-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the Raiders to trim the lead to 35-13. Barnes scored his third TD of the game on the next Longhorns possession and freshman Braydon Wright closed the scoring for Habersham with a 16-yard touchdown run.
Habersham got a safety on the final play of the game on a botched snap by the Longhorns.
The Raiders will travel to Gainesville while Lanier has an off week next week.